Saturday, August 19, 2006

The Tipping Point

Over the last couple of years I’ve been part of a number of different conversations about both The Tipping Point and Blink, both by Malcolm Gladwell. Up to this point I haven’t read either one but feel like I have based on all of these conversations. I decided it was time to sit down and flip through them to see what else I’ve been missing. Here are a few thoughts about The Tipping Point.

In general I was a bit disappointed in the book. Maybe there’s been too much discussion of the book over the last couple of years and it was bound to fall short of my expectations. I was expecting more academic rigor rather that his colloquial approach of presenting a concept and the selecting stories that support the concept. Seemed to be a bit sloppy to me. However, that doesn’t mean the ideas aren’t powerful, I would just like to see more research on the specific assertions that Gladwell makes.

Page 259 The last paragraph of the whole book
“But if there is difficulty and volatility in the world of the Tipping Point, there is a large measure of hopefulness as well. Merely by manipulating the size of a group, we can dramatically improve its receptivity to new ideas. By tinkering with the presentation of information, we can significantly improve its stickiness. Simply by finding and reaching those few special people who hold so much social power, we can shape the course of social epidemics. In the end, Tipping points are a reaffirmation of the potential for change and the power if intelligent action. Look at the world around you. It may seem like an immovable, implacable place. It is not. With the slightest push – in just the right place – it can be tipped.”

I think that this paragraph summarizes the entire book quite well. The key is to remember that small things can make a big difference. The art and magic of creating Tipping Points is not easy to learn. I sure don’t feel like I would know where to begin based on the examples he provided. I have some sense for what he is talking about and may be able to recognize a Tipping Point in the rearveiw mirror, but making it happen is either an art I don’t understand or a formula that he decided not to share with the rest of us. I suspect it’s the former.

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